CRC/C/GC/12 page 8
The realization of the right of the child to express her or his views requires that
the child be informed about the matters, options and possible decisions to be taken and their consequences by those who are responsible for hearing the child, and by the child’s parents or guardian. The child must also be informed about the conditions under
which she or he will be asked to express her or his views. This right to information is essential, because it is the precondition of the child’s clarified decisions.
“In all matters affecting the child”
States parties must assure that the child is able to express her or his views “in
all matters affecting” her or him. This represents a second qualification of this right: the child must be heard if the matter under discussion affects the child. This basic condition has to be respected and understood broadly.
The Open-ended Working Group established by the Commission on Human
Rights, which drafted the text of the Convention, rejected a proposal to define these matters by a list limiting the consideration of a child’s or children’s views. Instead, it
was decided that the right of the child to be heard should refer to “all matters affecting the child”. The Committee is concerned that children are often denied the right to be heard, even though it is obvious that the matter under consideration is affecting them and they are capable of expressing their own views with regard to this matter. While the Committee supports a broad definition of “matters”, which also covers issues not explicitly mentioned in the Convention, it recognizes the clause “affecting the child”, which was added in order to make clear that no general political mandate was intended. The practice, however, including the World Summit for Children, demonstrates that a wide interpretation of matters affecting the child and children helps to include children
in the social processes of their community and society. Thus, States parties should carefully listen to children’s views wherever their perspective can enhance the quality of solutions.
“Being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child”
The views of the child must be “given due weight in accordance with the age
and maturity of the child”. This clause refers to the capacity of the child, which has to be assessed in order to give due weight to her or his views, or to communicate to the child the way in which those views have influenced the outcome of the process. Article 12 stipulates that simply listening to the child is insufficient; the views of the child have to be seriously considered when the child is capable of forming her or his own views.
By requiring that due weight be given in accordance with age and maturity,
article 12 makes it clear that age alone cannot determine the significance of a child’s views. Children’s levels of understanding are not uniformly linked to their biological
age. Research has shown that information, experience, environment, social and cultural expectations, and levels of support all contribute to the development of a child’s capacities to form a view. For this reason, the views of the child have to be assessed on
a case-by-case examination.
Maturity refers to the ability to understand and assess the implications of a
particular matter, and must therefore be considered when determining the individual capacity of a child. Maturity is difficult to define; in the context of article 12, it is the
capacity of a child to express her or his views on issues in a reasonable and independent
manner. The impact of the matter on the child must also be taken into consideration.